Greetings fair readers. Before I delve into my weekly missive about all things local food and cooking, I want to take a moment to celebrate an auspicious anniversary. This article marks 6-months of my cooking contributions to The Fallon Post. To date, I have heard from a number of you--mainly that you regularly read this column but have yet to try cooking any of the recipes. On rare occasions, someone stops me at the golf course or in the grocery store to tell me that they tried (and enjoyed) one of the recipes. Let me tell you straight up, I LOVE IT. I hope that you are, not only enjoying what I write but are also attempting to prepare some of the dishes in your own kitchens AND I encourage you to share your experiences. Jump on to The Fallon Post website and leave a comment on the article, or post and tag on Facebook--I thrive on feedback especially when it involves cooking new dishes.
This week, like many of you, I received my first farm box stocked with goodies from local farms (and a couple in California). While the Great Basin Basket Farm Share is intended to celebrate and support Churchill County farmers, at the beginning of the season our Nevada farms are a little behind in their harvests thanks to the unique experience of growing in the high-desert and we have to supplement with some produce from our neighbors to the west. My farm box was stocked with (amongst other ingredients) Green Garlic from Lattin Farms, YaYa Carrots and arugula from the Desert Farming Initiative, and English Peas from Durst Family Farms.
There are so many things that make me happy about a box of locally grown produce. Green Garlic is one of my most favorite spring ingredients--as I have waxed philosophical about in previous columns. Carrots that taste like Carrots are a joy, whether chomped into raw and unpeeled, shredded into a salad, or slow-roasted and glazed with Rau Bees honey. But the English Peas were my week one highlight.
A brief history of my relationship with English Peas is in order. For the most part, veggie lovers in Northern Nevada regularly see two types of peas: sugar snaps and snow. While I do love a good sugar snap pea, they are typically prepared and served in the pod. The English Pea, on the other hand, is intended to be shelled and added (either raw or quickly blanched) into salads, served in a light butter sauce, or whirled into a fresh pea soup ideally topped with mint and sour cream or creme fraiche. The (two) bags of English Peas that stocked my farm box immediately reminded me of the gardens of my childhood. I took to shelling them with gusto, remembering days in my mid-western backyard when at least half of my harvest was eaten before I took the basket inside the house. By the way (Dad, if you are reading), when a pea or two escaped my waiting bowl, I obligingly made the pronouncement “whoops, I pea-d on the floor,” to the chagrin of my visiting in-laws.
The same day as farm box number one, I also received my latest Rancho Gordo bean club package. Tucked into the box was an ingredient that I have NEVER seen before: Ceci Neri - a bag of jet-black chickpeas. Between the abundance of fresh and local produce, a new stock of heirloom legumes, and the visiting in-laws, salads were in order. Alongside an herb-crusted roast Kennedy Ranch chicken (from Lamoille, NV), I served a fresh pea and feta salad, and a tasty mix of black chickpeas, shredded carrots, and mint.
These salads scream SPRING.
I hope you give them a try--do not worry about the specialty ingredients; I have included substitution suggestions in the recipes.
Fresh Pea and Feta Salad
1 # English Peas shelled - about 1 cup (you can substitute Sugar Snap Peas but if you do, try to get really plump ones to shell or consider slicing the whole pods on a bias)
2 cups baby arugula
½ c mint leaves, torn (I used a half a bunch)
1 lemon, juiced
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ c Feta cheese, crumbled (about 2 oz)
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, seasoned liberally with salt. Add shelled peas (or sliced snap peas in pod) and let simmer for about 1 minute. Drain and shock in a bowl of ice water. Once cool, drain again and let dry.
- Combine together arugula and mint. Add blanched peas. Toss lightly with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper until the leaves are glisteny. Top with crumbled feta and serve immediately.
Chickpea and Carrot Salad
1 bulb of green garlic, separated (you can substitute 1 clove of regular garlic)
- White part fine minced
- Green part chopped
1 lemon, juice and zest
¼ c olive oil
Salt and Pepper
4 carrots, peeled and shredded
2 cups cooked chickpeas (I used the ceci neri black chickpeas but feel free to use regular ones, ideally cooked yourself but if you must, the canned varieties are fine)
½ c mint leaves, torn (I used the other half bunch of mint leftover from the pea salad)
- In a small bowl, combine the white minced garlic, lemon juice and lemon zest. Slowly whisk in the olive oil and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- In a serving bowl toss shredded carrot with as much dressing as you would like. Add the cooked chickpeas and mint and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper and service immediately.